LOS ANGELES — In the face of steadily increasing COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations, Los Angeles County residents will again be required to wear masks in indoor settings beginning Saturday night, health officials announced Thursday.
“We’re not where we need to be for the millions at risk of infection here in Los Angeles County, and waiting to do something would be too late given what we’re seeing now,” County Health Officer Dr. Muntu Davis said.
On Thursday, the county reported 1,537 new infections, the highest number since early March. It was the seventh consecutive day of new case numbers that topped 1,000. Davis said the rate of virus spread in the county has officially risen from moderate to substantial, with infections five times more likely to occur among unvaccinated residents. The current seven-day average rate of daily new cases in the county is now at 7.1 cases per 100,000 residents, up from 4.8 just last week.
As a result, Davis said a revised county Health Officer Order will take effect at 11:59 p.m. Saturday, requiring people to wear masks in indoor settings, regardless of vaccination status. The county previously only recommended such mask-wearing in an effort to slow the spread of the virus and protect unvaccinated residents.
“Wearing a mask when indoors with others reduces the risk of both getting and transmitting the virus,” Davis said. “Masking indoors must again become a normal practice by all, regardless of vaccination status so we can stop the trends and level of transmission we are currently seeing.”
The masking order will remain in place “until we see improvements” in case transmission, he said.
Asked if the county might consider re-implementing other health restrictions — such as capacity limits and physical distancing, Davis said, “Everything is on the table if things continue to get worse.”
He said for now, mask wearing is the “easiest thing” for people to do to help limit spread of the virus.
The mandate means customers will again be required to mask up when entering any indoor public establishment, including retail shops, grocery stores, restaurants and workplaces. Davis said indoor dining will remain open, but customers will have to remain masked while they are not eating or drinking.
The new cases reported by the county Thursday lifted the cumulative total from throughout the pandemic to 1,262,578.